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Old 04-18-2010, 12:49 PM   #1
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1973 27' Overlander
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Red face First time towing -- which hitch, ball, etc?

I have only, up to this point, had my Airstream towed by other people, and I finally have a tow-worthy vehicle! Now I see that there are a million new questions to be answered before I can actually *tow* so I'd love some help.

First off, the metal front of my Airstream says Marvel 2" which I assume is the size of the ball I need -- but I read elsewhere on this forum that Airstreams generally need something bigger than a 2" ball. It definitely says 2", so am I right that I need a 2' ball?

Also, I figured out that I need a Class IV ball mount with a 6" drop. Am I insane to start off without equalizer bars and all of the bells and whistles, and just get a basic hitch? Any recommendations there?

Lastly, the truck does have a Tekonsha Voyager brake controller but now I find out that the trailer itself may not hook up to this. What do I need to install on my Airstream to make it compatible with this brake controller so I can actually use it when I tow?

I'll only be going a short distance my first time out, about an hour over nothing but gentle slopes on back roads, but I want to properly prepared for my first practice run. I know the tires and everything else is tow-ready.

Thanks for any help and support and for not making me feel stupid for my ignorance!

- Ecotrailer
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Old 04-18-2010, 12:58 PM   #2
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The only reason the have other than a 2 inch ball is if the coupler on the trailer has been changed to a 2 5/16 coupler. 2 inch should work for you.

For the 6" Drop, I believe this should be determined after the receiver is installed on your truck. What model of truck do you have? Is it raised to a great degree?

I believe the break controller should work with any electric brakes, the connection issue would be what type of plug in is installed on your truck, and which type of plug is on the trailer. 4 pin connectors usually aren't for brakes, just lights. Do you know which type is on the trailer?

I tow quite a few trailers from construction to airstream, and the equalizer hitch is not a necessity. For comfort and peace of mind in the future it is a welcome upgrade. I suppose it also depends on the size of your truck. An S10 pulling an airstream is much different than a 1 ton truck doing the same. Especially in the stopping potential.
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Old 04-18-2010, 01:11 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ecotrailer View Post
I have only, up to this point, had my Airstream towed by other people, and I finally have a tow-worthy vehicle! Now I see that there are a million new questions to be answered before I can actually *tow* so I'd love some help.

First off, the metal front of my Airstream says Marvel 2" which I assume is the size of the ball I need -- but I read elsewhere on this forum that Airstreams generally need something bigger than a 2" ball. It definitely says 2", so am I right that I need a 2' ball?

Also, I figured out that I need a Class IV ball mount with a 6" drop. Am I insane to start off without equalizer bars and all of the bells and whistles, and just get a basic hitch? Any recommendations there?

Lastly, the truck does have a Tekonsha Voyager brake controller but now I find out that the trailer itself may not hook up to this. What do I need to install on my Airstream to make it compatible with this brake controller so I can actually use it when I tow?

I'll only be going a short distance my first time out, about an hour over nothing but gentle slopes on back roads, but I want to properly prepared for my first practice run. I know the tires and everything else is tow-ready.

Thanks for any help and support and for not making me feel stupid for my ignorance!

- Ecotrailer
All Airstreams after 1969 should take a 2 5/16th ball.. If it takes a 2 inch ball the coupler has been changed which is unlikely

Safe towing would require the equalizing hitch, Doesn't mean you can't get there with out but better not to, particularly if you have a light tow vehicle.

Regarding brakes, if you have electric drum brakes your controller will be compatible. Certain years,but not sure exactly when came with a vacuum disk brake setup. These have usually been converted to electric brakes. Also at that time Airstream was still using a plug to connect to the TV using round pins.
Again most of these have been changed out to the flat blade connector in universal use today but not all colors in the AS pigtail are the same as current standard so it will have to be hooked up by function rather than color.
If you have some one who moved the trailer for you before, they should know what size ball, and if there were any problems with the electric pigtail hookup

It would be good to find some one you can get to in person, or a friendly dealer to help you through these first steps
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Old 04-18-2010, 01:22 PM   #4
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Rick Davis said it best:

Quote:
Originally Posted by RickDavis View Post
It would be good to find some one you can get to in person, or a friendly dealer to help you through these first steps
I think before getting behind the wheel of a 5,000+lbs truck pulling a 4,000+lbs trailer going down the highway at 60+mph it would be wise to take Rick's advice. Everyone should know the the first step well before risking their lives and others on the road.

I saw what happens when a person put 2 5/16 trailer on a 2 inch ball, they were glad no one was killed.
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Old 04-18-2010, 01:30 PM   #5
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It would help us greatly in providing guidance, if you could post some photos of the yoke of the Airstream with the 2" hitch ball receiver. Take a look again and make sure it is not for a 2 5/16" ball. If it's old and rusty, you may be misreading it. If you have not hooked the trailer up, how did you determine that you need a hitch bar with a 6" drop.

Also, tell us about your tow vehicle. If your tow vehicle is marginal, you are going to need a weight distribution/sway control hitch system. This is an important safety issue.

Send us a picture of the wiring pig tail on the trailer. It should hook up for lights and brakes unless a prior owner did some crazy stuff.

Brian
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Old 04-19-2010, 11:50 AM   #6
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Hi all,
My mechanic assures me my truck really is tow-worthy (he know what I'm towing). It's a 2003 Dodge Ram 2500.

Okay I just figured out how to upload pics to a gallery. This link should work:
- Photo Gallery

As you can see, it really does seem to need a 2" ball, correct?

And also, I think I just figured out that flap on the truck reveals a port for the round plug -- that would be the brakes, right?

And this:
--
Also, I figured out that I need a Class IV ball mount with a 6" drop. --

I followed guidelines from a website on taking measurements to determine what kind of ball mount I need. There *is* I should have said some kind of hitch already installed on the truck, and I measured the hitch height from the ground, then measured the coupler height (to the Airstream) and figured out the drop required given the difference. Is this incorrect?

I agree it would be good to have a dealer involved. I'm way out in the boonies so unfortunately would have to travel 30 miles or more just to get to a dealer, and I don't know anyone out here who can come look at my Airstream while it's sitting in my yard.

Thanks so much everyone!!

EcoTrailer
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Old 04-19-2010, 12:24 PM   #7
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The Dodge round plug should be your 7-wire plug - now its time to think brake controller too

I'm not able to cover every detail but some things to watch for:

The Airstream weight PDF list circulating around here says our 1973 27' trailers weigh 4550 pounds dry - and the manufacturers data plate claim 6200 pounds GVWR (my 72 29' claims 7100#) so don't pick up the first ball mount you come across since everywhere has #5,000 drop ball mount bars they want to sell..

To truly comply you need a a heavied up (thicker) or 'forged' mount that you can spot by the ball mount platform being 1" thick and usually requiring a ball shank that is at least 2-1/4" long...

Take your time and get it right - etrailer dot com displays their products in a logical matrix for some catch up reading; they have a 2" long shank ball rated for 12,000# for $10...
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Old 04-19-2010, 01:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ecotrailer View Post
Hi all,
My mechanic assures me my truck really is tow-worthy (he know what I'm towing). It's a 2003 Dodge Ram 2500.

Okay I just figured out how to upload pics to a gallery. This link should work:
- Photo Gallery

As you can see, it really does seem to need a 2" ball, correct?

And also, I think I just figured out that flap on the truck reveals a port for the round plug -- that would be the brakes, right?

And this:
--
Also, I figured out that I need a Class IV ball mount with a 6" drop. --

I followed guidelines from a website on taking measurements to determine what kind of ball mount I need. There *is* I should have said some kind of hitch already installed on the truck, and I measured the hitch height from the ground, then measured the coupler height (to the Airstream) and figured out the drop required given the difference. Is this incorrect?

I agree it would be good to have a dealer involved. I'm way out in the boonies so unfortunately would have to travel 30 miles or more just to get to a dealer, and I don't know anyone out here who can come look at my Airstream while it's sitting in my yard.

Thanks so much everyone!!

EcoTrailer
It does say 2 inch. This brings up the question why as the 2 5/16 ball has been standard since the 70 models unless yours was either custom or has been changed.
I would still double check this by trying to insert the larger ball. Or trying a 2 inch and being darn sure it fits right

Typically Airstream ball height to the top of the ball is around 19 inches.

It appears that you have the standard 7 pin bargman connector on the truck it should be installed and wired to industry standard as should the trailer. That way any one can hookup to it and everything works. The proper connector has 6 flat pins ( arranged in a circle)and a center pin. The flat connector in your picture is for a utility trailer.
All functions, lights brakes etc go through the same connector.
The connector in the center picture appears to be the trailer end of a standard connector. You need the mating socket on the truck. This should be the one that is sideways under the metal cover on your hitch. on the first pic. You should be able to just plug in and have lights brakes etc if no repairs are needed
you appear to (supplied by Dodge) have the typical 2 inch reciever on the truck it is rated at 5000 lbs when NOT used as a weight equalizing hitch. 10,000 load equalizing.

Your truck is ok . I have a 99 Dodge 2500 with 550k on it.
You really need to get a friend over there with some experience to look at it. You might get by towing it to a dealer with out the equalizing hitch, although I don't recommend it.
I deliver trailers, and i would not touch it with out working lights and brakes.
NOT picking on you, but it is hard to solve some of these problems long distance and we don't want you getting hurt or damaging your trailer
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Old 04-19-2010, 01:52 PM   #9
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One of those things I hate to ask, but are you absolutely sure the trailer is a 73 (getting that from ur profile) ? 1969 was the first year for the newer body style and they did have a 2 inch ball from the factory.

The 69 can be easily identified by square corners on the front and rear main windows, a water tank under the front couch and the door handle. Also of course by the serial number

I know it is a wild thought, but figured I would throw it out there anyway
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Old 04-20-2010, 07:43 AM   #10
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Wow, well, you could be right about the year. No, I'm not absolutely sure, as I simply took the word of the seller (who was an Airstream junkie before his passing, and did dozens of renovations in his time, so I had no reason to distrust him) and as I said I'm in the Boonies so I haven't had occasion to interact with a lot of Airstream folks. Unfortunately, since the trailer was previously gutted and does not have its original interior, I don't know about the water tank placement.

I do think it has squared off corners on the windows you mentioned, though I am not sure I know what you mean. I guess looking up the serial number is the way to know for sure. Thank you for pointing that out. I am still a relative newbie to this community of Airstream-lovers.

After reading everything, I'm considering having the trailer towed to a dealer who could make sure I've got the right set-up, if I can't get someone to come here, though it would be great if I could get an Airstream aficionado to do a site visit.
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Old 04-20-2010, 08:44 AM   #11
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Hard to describe with out pix but if the trailer is a 69 the rear trailer window will have square corners. If it is 70 up it will have rounded corners. On the front the two "wing windows " will have a square lower outside corner, it will be rounded on the newer ones. If you have a water tank fill coming out the front left(if u are facing forward) that is a sign of a 69.
Th door handle on a 69 was protruding, actually a lever as I recall. The 70 up models had a flush door handle.
If you can get the serial number off the plate by the door that should identify it also and your title should show the year.
Hope that helps
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Old 04-20-2010, 01:33 PM   #12
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Hi Rick,
Thank you -- that's helpful. I did write down the serial number but am not sure where to look it up. Is there a resource on here for reading serial numbers or somewhere I can look?

I guess it's time to do a thorough background check!

EcoTrailer
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Old 04-20-2010, 02:13 PM   #13
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Here is a link to find out what you have by cross referencing the SN
http://airstreamlife.com/files/2008/01/vin.pdf
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